Steve Clarke admits Scotland’s 2024 Euro qualifier against Georgia should have been stopped before Callum McGregor scored the opening goal in the rain-interrupted 2-0 win at Hampden Park.
A heavy rainstorm in the lead-up to the Group A fixture had rendered the match farcical in the opening stages and Clarke and opposition boss Willy Sagnol had flagged up concerns before midfielder McGregor scored in the sixth minute with a drive.
Hungarian referee Istvan Vad immediately halted the game with an announcement confirming an initial 20-minute delay for the pitch to be cleared of water before a pitch inspection.
When play eventually resumed it was over 90 minutes after it had been halted.
Midfielder Scott McTominay added a second two minutes into the second-half with his fifth goal in four qualifiers before Georgia superstar Khvicha Kvaratskhelia missed a penalty in added time.
“That’s when the game should have been stopped,” said Clarke of the period when it was goalless, as he joked, “apart from the birth of my three children it was the longest day of my life”.
“It was pretty obvious from kick off that the pitch wasn’t ready,” he said.
“They have a time limit. You know it is going to dry up, it’s only a shower. A big shower mind you, a heavy shower, but you know it is going to dry up.
“That would have been the logical time to call it or maybe not even start it and just delay the kick off.
“Obviously the who dynamic changes once there is a goal in the game. They want it stopped. We don’t. That’s normal.
“If they had scored they wouldn’t have wanted the game stopped so thankfully it dried up, everybody did their job and the best part is the players did their job.”
Scotland cemented their top spot in the group with a win which confirmed 12 points from their opening four fixtures ahead of the trip to Cyprus in September.
The Scots are eight points clear of Georgia, unbeaten in eight competitive games and are on course for an appearance in the finals in Germany next summer.
Clarke said: “I have to mention the fans, they were magnificent.
“It would have been easy for them to get a little bit down, thinking about going home because the game could have been called off.
“They stayed and every time we went on to the pitch they cheered and got behind us.
“All the volunteers who got the brushes and the brooms to get the water off the pitch, you have to say thank you because eventually we came out with a massive three points, 12 points to lead the group is a fantastic start.”
Sagnol claimed his players had been treated as “objects” as he criticised the communication from UEFA and the decision to play on after both Clarke and himself raised concerns.
The former Bayern Munich and France defender said: “I think everybody tried their best but I don’t know why the game started because after five seconds everyone could see it was impossible to play.
“The fact the referee stopped the game just after the first goal, he put himself under so much pressure.
“He could have stopped after both Steve Clarke and I spoke together and asked him to stop the match before the goal. It was about the third minute. If he had done it at that moment things would have been much easier.
“We both asked the fourth official, he said it’s not possible. The fourth official said ‘we can’t stop the match before the delegate comes down’. Then after that we were told it was the referee that had to make the decision. It was a lot of nonsense and biased communication.
“But we restarted the game as we have been asked – under massive pressure from UEFA, I have to say.
“The only thing in these moments I regret as a manager is the lack of communication. You don’t know why they decide things, they don’t really give you explanations. Then you have to cope with your players, you have to wait and wait and wait and get cold and wait.
“We feel we were considered as objects – ‘shut up and do what we tell you’.”
Sagnol denied his players had refused to come back out at one stage.
“The only thing we asked was to communicate with us, because we had to speak with our players,” he added.
“For example, the last time they came, the UEFA delegate said we had to play in six minutes. How can you say to players who have been inside for 30 minutes, who haven’t had proper dinner for five and a half hours? How can you say that to professional players?”